Welcome to Hoop Dreams, a season preview unlike any other you’ll read before the 2016-17 season tips off. The premise is simple. We’ll be providing 30 of these fictional forays because it simply stinks that only one team can win the title each year. The list of contending teams seems to shrink with each campaign, and we wanted to provide something to those fans who only get to dream of Larry O’Brien during the offseason. Before October, every team can win the NBA title. Don’t believe us? Then keep reading. – Ed
The world wasn’t prepared for this. Decades of burning river jokes, and montages filled with “The” detailing futility and pain were all we knew. It was comforting. It was safe. This, no, this isn’t right. It’s so cold now. Even the daylight is dark and gray. Is this really what we wanted?
The Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA title for a second straight season, and everything changed.
At first it was fun, you know, making “the Warriors blew a 3-1 lead” jokes. They were everywhere, and they exposed the hubris of a team (and owner) that thought they changed basketball forever. They thought winning 73 games was a mark that would be set in stone. They were wrong. There are no marks anymore. There is no history. Everything was wiped away by the July 22, 2017 blackout. But we’ll come back to that after we find out how we got there in the first place.
Little did we know that “the Warriors blew a 3-1 lead” would someday be written in chalk like Pynchon’s postal service as a sort of revolution, an uprising in response to the apocalyptic future we were destined to endure. It was just a punchline to a joke that was already amended after Kevin Durant signed with Golden State. The Warriors, once thought to be unbeatable, were now even more unbeatable. And the Cavs, well they got their title. They’d be satisfied. They had to be, right? Especially after the Indians transformed Cleveland into a winner once again following the World Series victory over the Chicago Cubs.
Things went as planned for the Cavs throughout the Eastern Conference. The ultra-talented core won enough games to keep the No. 1 seed, staggering rest for Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith, and LeBron James. Mike Dunleavy proved to be a useful addition, and Kay Felder was the backup point guard spark the team needed following the loss of Matthew Dellavedova to the Bucks in free agency. James continued to show his evolution, saving energy and playing at a high level without appearing fatigued at any point of the season. Irving took another step forward and made a case as an MVP-caliber player, although he lost to Russell Westbrook.
None of that mattered. Nothing matters anymore.